The Social Secretary and I have just returned home after 8 days camping at the beautiful Tāwharanui Regional Park 15km from the lovely village of Matakana just north of Auckland. It’s a fantastic 588 hectares at the end of the Tāwharanui Peninsula in the Hauraki Gulf. Outside of the really busy periods like Summer weekends, Christmas and Waitangi Day the place is 90% empty. It’s astonishing to me that places like this are so little used but it certainly makes it enjoyable for those of us who can live without TV and PlayStation for a few days.
Far from the madding crowd
As you can see from this shot of our campsite (that’s us close to the centre of the image), it’s not exactly over-subscribed in the Springtime.
A pest-proof fence has recently been installed right across the peninsula. As a result, most of the introduced predators: cats, rats, stoats, possums, and hedgehogs have been eliminated and birds rarely seen on the New Zealand mainland have reintroduced themselves or been re-established by conservation organisations.
Looking towards Anchor Bay:
The quality of my pics is nothing to write home about. I took them with my iPhone, which doesn’t make for museum quality.
Click on an image to see a full size version.
In the centre of the reserve there’s a remnant of old puriri forest surrounded by a large area of well-established regenerating native bush: kauri, rimu, kanuka, tanekaha, nikau and many others. Access it via the Ecology Track.
I’m getting too old and creaky to have dragged myself out in the middle of the night to spot my first kiwi in the wild, but we saw the rare nocturnal pateke (brown duck) and pīhoihoi (New Zealand pipit) for the first time ever, and tieke (saddlebacks), grey warblers, korimako (bellbird), and huge numbers of tui, fantail, pukeko, waxeyes and too many seabirds to list.
The pukeko were in such vast numbers that they were a pest. The randy sods were intent on making new pukekos day and night and made sure we heard all about it. According to the ranger they’re awaiting permission to cull the teeming hordes. Please do so before next spring. 🙁
It was tempting to knock a couple off for the pot, but you know the old story about cooking pukeko: “Put the bird in a pot with a large stone, boil until the stone is tender, throw away the pukeko and eat the stone.”
Here’s the campsite
The little blue tent is a Pocket Rocket from Freedom Camping. If you like having a hot shower in roomy comfort that’s the way to go. I rig up a 12V electric pump attached to a shower head, fill the bucket from a couple of solar shower bags and it’s just like home. When we camp away from long-drops we put a Port-a-Potti in there too.
We also use a solar panel to charge the lighting batteries, mobile phones, Kindles, and the laptop. Throw in a gas fridge and a sheepskin cover for the queen airbed and we’re talking 5 star glamping.
The secret of a warm airbed
We use two queen-sized airbeds one on top of the other. That doesn’t stop you from having the heat sucked out into the ground outside mid-summer. Airbeds aren’t very well compartmentalised so the air circulates and convects your body heat into the centre of the planet.
Solve that by putting an insulating layer under the mattress, not on top of it. We put a blanket between the two air mattresses and for full home comfort we put a foam pad and a sheepskin on the top.
Why two airbeds?
- It’s more comfortable for old bones to be at normal bed height,
- and if you get a leak in one mattress in the middle of the night it’s no big deal,
- and it’s warmer,
- and two normal queen airbeds are a lot cheaper than a full-height camping bed.